Pistol

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A government-issue M1911 pistol manufactured in 1914 Pistol used by "Squeaky" Fromme.JPG
A government-issue M1911 pistol manufactured in 1914
Soviet TT pistol manufactured in 1937 TT-33 2.JPG
Soviet TT pistol manufactured in 1937

A pistol is a handgun, more specifically one with the chamber integral to its gun barrel, though in common usage the two terms are often used interchangeably. [1] The English word was introduced in c.1570, when early handguns were produced in Europe, and is derived from the Middle French pistolet (c.1550), meaning a small gun or knife. In colloquial usage, the word "pistol" is often used to describe any type of handgun, inclusive of revolvers (which have a single barrel and a separate cylinder housing multiple chambers) and the pocket-sized derringers (which are often multi-barrelled).

Contents

The most common type of pistol used in the contemporary era is the semi-automatic pistol, while the older single-shot and manual repeating pistols are now rarely seen and used primarily for nostalgic hunting and historical reenactment, and the fully automatic machine pistols are uncommon in civilian usage due to generally poor recoil-controllability and strict laws and regulations governing their manufacture and sale.

Terminology

Technically speaking, the term "pistol" is a hypernym generally referring to a handgun and predates the existence of the type of guns to which it now applied as a specific term, that is: in colloquial usage it is used as a hyponym to specifically describe pistols with a single integral chamber within its barrel. [2] The American Webster's Dictionary defines it as "a handgun whose chamber is integral with the barrel". [3] This makes it distinct from the other types of handgun, such as the revolver, which has multiple chambers within a rotating cylinder that are separately aligned with a single barrel; [4] [5] and the derringer, which is a short pocket gun often with multiple single-shot barrels and no reciprocating action. [6] The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) legally defines the term "pistol" as "a weapon originally designed, made, and intended to fire a projectile (bullet) from one or more barrels when held in one hand, and having: a chamber(s) as an integral part(s) of, or permanently aligned with, the bore(s); and a short stock designed to be gripped by one hand at an angle to and extending below the line of the bore(s)", [7] which includes derringers but excludes revolvers.

In contrast with modern colloquial usage, the term is technically synonymous with any handgun type, including all revolvers and derringers. UK/Commonwealth usage, for instance, does not usually make distinction, particularly when the terms are used by the military. For example, the official designation of the Webley Mk VI revolver was "Pistol, Revolver, Webley, No. 1 Mk VI". [8] In contrast to the Merriam-Webster definition, [4] [5] the Oxford English Dictionary (a descriptive dictionary) describes "pistol" as "a small firearm designed to be held in one hand", [9] which is similar to the Webster definition for "handgun"; [10] and "revolver" as "a pistol with revolving chambers enabling several shots to be fired without reloading", [11] giving its original form as "revolving pistol". [11] [12]

History and etymology

European hand cannon (Germany, about 1475) Stangenbuchsen bei Burgebelagerung 1475.jpg
European hand cannon (Germany, about 1475)

The pistol originates in the 16th century, when early handguns were produced in Europe. The English word was introduced in ca. 1570 from the Middle French pistolet (ca. 1550).

The etymology of the French word pistolet is disputed. It may be from a Czech word for early hand cannons, píšťala ("whistle" or "pipe"), or alternatively from Italian pistolese, after Pistoia, a city renowned for Renaissance-era gunsmithing, where hand-held guns (designed to be fired from horseback) were first produced in the 1540s. [13]

The first suggestion derives the word from Czech píšťala, a type of hand-cannon used in the Hussite Wars during the 1420s. The Czech word was adopted in German as pitschale, pitschole, petsole, and variants. [14]

The second suggestion is less likely; the use of the word as a designation of a gun is not documented before 1605 in Italy, long after it was used in French and German. The Czech word is well documented since the Hussite wars in 1420s. [15]

Action

Single-shot

French Navy pistol model 1837 Pistolet marine 1837-IMG 6935.jpg
French Navy pistol model 1837

Single-shot handguns were mainly seen during the era of flintlock and musket weaponry where the pistol was loaded with a lead ball and fired by a flint striker, and then later a percussion cap. This shot required a reload every time it was shot. However, as technology improved, so did the single-shot pistol. New operating mechanisms were created, and due to this, they are still made today. They are the oldest type of pistol, [16] and are often used to hunt wild game. Additionally, their compact size compared to most other types of handgun makes them more concealable.

Revolver

Colt Model 1873 Single-Action "New Model Army Metallic Cartridge Revolving Pistol" Colt SAA Ladeklappe.JPG
Colt Model 1873 Single-Action "New Model Army Metallic Cartridge Revolving Pistol"

With the development of the revolver, short for revolving pistol, in the 19th century, gunsmiths had finally achieved the goal of a practical capability for delivering multiple loads to one handgun barrel in quick succession. Revolvers feed ammunition via the rotation of a cartridge-filled cylinder, in which each cartridge is contained within its own ignition chamber, and is sequentially brought into alignment with the weapon's barrel by an indexing mechanism linked to the weapon's trigger (double-action) or its hammer (single-action). These nominally cylindrical chambers, usually numbering between five and eight depending on the size of the revolver and the size of the cartridge being fired, are bored through the cylinder so that their axes are parallel to the cylinder's axis of rotation; thus, as the cylinder rotates, the chambers revolve about the cylinder's axis.

Semi-automatic

Semi-automatic pistol Grand Power K100 Target, produced in Slovakia GP K100 target.jpg
Semi-automatic pistol Grand Power K100 Target, produced in Slovakia

After the revolver, the semi-automatic pistol was the next step in the development of the pistol. By avoiding multiple chambers—which need to be individually reloaded—semi-automatic pistols delivered faster rates of fire and required only a few seconds to reload, by pushing a button or flipping a switch, and the magazine slides out to be replaced by a fully-loaded one. In blowback-type semi-automatics, the recoil force is used to push the slide back and eject the shell (if any) so that the magazine spring can push another round up; then as the slide returns, it chambers the round. An example of a modern blowback action semi-automatic pistol is the Walther PPK. Blowback pistols are some of the more simply designed handguns. Many semi-automatic pistols today operate using short-recoil. This design is often coupled with the Browning type tilting barrel.

Machine pistol

A Glock 18, a machine pistol derived from the semi-automatic Glock 17. Glock 18C.jpg
A Glock 18, a machine pistol derived from the semi-automatic Glock 17.

A machine pistol is a pistol that is capable of burst-fire or fully automatic fire. The first machine pistol was produced by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1916, as the Steyr Repetierpistole M1912/P16, and the term is derived from the German word maschinenpistolen. Though it is often used interchangeably with submachine gun, a machine pistol is generally used to describe a weapon that is more compact than a typical submachine gun.

How it works: The shooter will disable the safety switch and pull the trigger, but hold it unlike firing a normal semi-automatic. The handgun will fire one round, and recoils, and the high-capacity magazine spring pushes another round, and is chambered, and fired without any actions needed from the shooter. They are useful in situations where multiple bullets must be fired in quick succession with minimal effort.

A COP .357 Derringer, which contains four barrels. COP 357.jpg
A COP .357 Derringer, which contains four barrels.

Multi-barreled

Multi-barreled pistols, such as the Pepperbox, were common during the same time as single shot pistols. As designers looked for ways to increase fire rates, multiple barrels were added to all guns including pistols. One example of a multi-barreled pistol is the COP .357 Derringer.

Harmonica pistol

Around 1850, pistols such as the Jarre harmonica gun were produced that had a sliding magazine. The sliding magazine contained pinfire cartridges or speedloaders. The magazine needed to be moved manually in many designs, hence distinguishing them from semi-automatic pistols.

Lever-action

Lever action pistols are very rare, the most notable of which is the Volcanic pistol.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Firearm</span> Gun for an individual

A firearm is any type of gun designed to be readily carried and used by an individual. The term is legally defined further in different countries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Machine gun</span> Fully-automatic firearm

A machine gun is a fully automatic, rifled autoloading firearm designed for sustained direct fire with rifle cartridges. Other automatic firearms such as automatic shotguns and automatic rifles are typically designed more for firing short bursts rather than continuous firepower, and are not considered true machine guns.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Revolver</span> Firearm with a cylinder holding cartridges

A revolver is a repeating handgun that has at least one barrel and uses a revolving cylinder containing multiple chambers for firing. Because most revolver models hold up to six rounds of cartridge before needing to reload, revolvers are also commonly called six shooters.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Single-shot</span> Firearm that holds one round of ammunition

Single-shot firearms are firearms that hold only a single round of ammunition, and must be reloaded manually after every shot. The history of firearms began with single-shot designs, then multi-barreled designs appeared, and eventually many centuries passed before multi-shot repeater designs became commonplace.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Action (firearms)</span> Functional mechanism of breech-loading

In firearms terminology, an action is the functional mechanism of a breech-loading firearm that handles the ammunition cartridges, or the method by which that mechanism works. Actions are technically not present on muzzleloaders, as all those are single-shot firearms with a closed off breech with the powder and projectile manually loaded from the muzzle. Instead, the muzzleloader ignition mechanism is referred to as the lock.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Derringer</span> Small handgun

A derringer is a small handgun that is neither a revolver nor a semi/fully automatic pistol. It is not to be confused with mini-revolvers or pocket pistols, although some later derringers were manufactured with the pepperbox configuration. The modern derringer is often multi-barreled, and is generally the smallest usable handgun of any given caliber and barrel length due to the lack of a moving action, which takes up more space behind the barrel. It is frequently used by women because it is easily concealable in a purse or a stocking.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Semi-automatic pistol</span> Type of pistol

A semi-automatic pistol is a type of repeating single-chamber handgun (pistol) that automatically cycles its action to insert the subsequent cartridge into the chamber (self-loading), but requires manual actuation of the trigger to actually discharge the following shot. As a result, only one round of ammunition is fired each time the trigger is pulled, as the pistol's fire control group disconnects the trigger mechanism from the firing pin/striker until the trigger has been released and reset.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pepper-box</span> Multi-barrel firearm

The pepper-box revolver or simply pepperbox is a multiple-barrel firearm, mostly in the form of a handgun, that has three or more gun barrels in a coaxially revolving mechanism. Each barrel holds a single shot, and the shooter can manually rotate the whole barrel assembly to sequentially index each barrel into alignment with the lock or hammer, similar to rotation of a revolver's cylinder.

A rim is an external flange that is machined, cast, molded, stamped, or pressed around the bottom of a firearms cartridge. Thus, rimmed cartridges are sometimes called "flanged" cartridges. Almost all cartridges feature an extractor or headspacing rim, in spite of the fact that some cartridges are known as "rimless cartridges". The rim may serve a number of purposes, including providing a lip for the extractor to engage, and sometimes serving to headspace the cartridge.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pocket pistol</span> Term for a small, pocket-sized semi-automatic pistol

In American English, a pocket pistol is any small, pocket-sized semi-automatic pistol, and is suitable for concealed carry in either a coat, jacket, or trouser pocket.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Extractor (firearms)</span> Firearms component that removes fired cartridges

In breechloading firearms, an extractor is an action component that serves to remove spent casings of previously fired cartridges from the chamber, in order to vacate the chamber for loading a fresh round of ammunition.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Trigger (firearms)</span> Mechanism that activates a gun

A trigger is a mechanism that actuates the function of a ranged weapon such as a firearm, airgun, crossbow, or speargun. The word may also be used to describe a switch that initiates the operation of other non-shooting devices such as a trap, a power tool or a quick release. A small amount of energy applied to the trigger leads to the release of much more energy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Snake shot</span>

Snake shot refers to handgun and rifle cartridges loaded with lead shot canisters instead of bullets, much like large caliber canister shot. Snake shot is generally used for shooting snakes, rodents, birds, and other pests at very close range. The most common snake shot cartridge is .22 Long Rifle loaded with No. 12 shot. From a standard rifle these can produce effective patterns only to a distance of about 3 metres (10 ft), but in a smoothbore shotgun that can extend as far as 15 metres (50 ft).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Handgun</span> Short-barreled firearm designed to be held and used with one hand

A handgun is a short-barrelled gun, typically a firearm, that is designed to be usable with only one hand. It is distinguished from a long gun, which needs to be held by both hands and also braced against the shoulder to be used properly. The two most common types of handguns in modern times are revolvers and semi-automatic pistols, although other types such as derringers and machine pistols also see infrequent usage.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cylinder (firearms)</span> Cylindrical revolver part that holds rounds

In firearms, the cylinder is the cylindrical, rotating part of a revolver containing multiple chambers, each of which is capable of holding a single cartridge. The cylinder rotates (revolves) around a central axis in the revolver's action to sequentially align each individual chamber with the barrel bore for repeated firing. Each time the gun is cocked, the cylinder indexes by one chamber. Serving the same function as a rotary magazine, the cylinder stores ammunitions within the revolver and allows it to fire multiple times before needing to reload.

The following are terms related to firearms and ammunition topics.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Colt Walker</span> Revolver

The Colt Walker, sometimes known as the Walker Colt, is a single-action revolver with a revolving cylinder holding six charges of black powder behind six bullets. It was designed in 1846 by American firearms inventor Samuel Colt to the specifications of Captain Samuel Hamilton Walker.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Taurus Judge</span> Revolver

The Taurus Judge is a five shot revolver designed and produced by Taurus International, chambered for .410 bore shot shells and the .45 Colt cartridge. Taurus promotes the Judge as a self-defense tool against carjacking and for home protection.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Multiple-barrel firearm</span> Type of firearm with more than one barrel

A multiple-barrel firearm is any type of firearm with more than one gun barrel, usually to increase the rate of fire or hit probability and to reduce barrel erosion/overheating.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Repeating firearm</span> Firearms that can be discharged multiple times after a single ammunition reload

A repeating firearm or repeater is any firearm that is capable of being fired repeatedly before having to manually reload new ammunition into the weapon.

References

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  5. 1 2 "Revolver Define Revolver". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  6. "Derringer Definition". Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
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  11. 1 2 "Home : Oxford English Dictionary". Oed.com. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
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